September 21, 2020
Pressure from our Protect Casual Miners campaign has forced a number of LNP politicians out of the woodwork on casualisation in mining. Unfortunately their arguments don’t hold water.
WHAT THEY SAID:
Queensland Senator Matt Canavan
“I, and the LNP, support permanent work rights. We support the right of coal miners to convert to permanent work after working a period of regular hours as a casual. The LNP introduced legislation last year called the Fair Work Amendment (Right to Request Casual Conversion) Bill 2019… This right is intended to ensure that all employees in the national system will have access to a right to request casual conversion.”
– Letter to Queensland District
Dawson MP George Christensen
“The court case you may have heard about will do nothing to ensure casual miners get permanent work. Instead, it’s all about pay. While there’s been one court decision, the matter is now before the High Court, not the government. It is the High Court who will have the final say on the pay issue.”
– Letter to ‘Protect Casual Miners’ campaign supporters
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry
“They’ve received the extra money for not getting holiday and sick pay and I don’t believe they should be backpaid then on a permanent rate” – TV interview about the Protect Casual Miners Campaign
QUICK GUIDE TO DECIPHERING THEIR BULLSH**T:
The ‘right to request’ conversion
LNP MPs claim they have tried to fix the casual rort by proposing legislation to give full-time coal miners the right to request permanent conversion after 12 months and will have another go.
Not good enough.
A Bill was introduced last year but lapsed ahead of the Federal election. The right to request conversion is not an adequate solution and we don’t support it. For a start, the boss can refuse when it’s only the right to ‘request’. And mining companies should not be employing permanents as casuals at all. The Federal Court has said it’s unlawful. Mineworkers in full-time, ongoing roles should be employed as permanents on site EAs.
WorkPac High Court challenge
WorkPac has gone to the High Court to reverse the Federal Court’s definition of casual as intermittent and irregular and to overturn the judgment that workers who were not genuine casuals (like Paul Skene, Robert Rossato and many others) are entitled to claim unpaid entitlements.
The Morrison Government has intervened in the case to back them up, on the issue of backpay for affected workers. LNP politicians say this is nothing to do with permanent jobs for coal miners but about protecting small business from ‘double-dipping’ claims.
This High Court challenge has everything to do with permanent jobs for coal miners and compensating them when they have been unlawfully employed as casuals. By intervening on the employers’ behalf, the Morrison Government is backing the ‘permanent casual’ rort in mining and showing that they don’t believe that casual coal miners have made genuine claims about their unlawful treatment – even though the Federal Court has twice ruled ‘permanent casual’ employment unlawful.
Claiming unpaid entitlements is ‘double-dipping’
It’s common knowledge in the coal industry that casuals are paid less, not more than permanents. The Federal Court found that WorkPac employees Paul Skene and Robert Rossato were not genuine casuals and their pay rates did not cover entitlements like paid leave. Employers claim they will face billions of dollars in backpay claims as a result of the WorkPac Federal Court decisions. This is a gross exaggeration as workers in other industries who are genuine casuals and receive their lawful casual loading won’t be affected. Compensation for coal miners unlawfully employed as casuals is justice, not double-dipping.
What should they do?
We want politicians to commit to a definition of casual in the Fair Work Act that is irregular, intermittent and without firm, advance commitment in line with the Federal Court judgment, common sense and community standards. If the Government introduces a definition of casual that is just if the boss calls you one, they will be legalising the ‘permanent casual’ rort in mining to continue indefinitely. The next step then is the complete removal of permanent mineworkers, unless you’re the boss.
What you can do
It’s important that your voice is heard in the debate about casuals in mining. If you haven’t yet emailed your MP to end the permanent casual rort, you can do it at www.protectcasualminers.com.au. It’s easy and will make a big difference.